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New Program Will Train People for Non-Profit Work

Missouri State University officials announced this week that the Community and Social Issues Institute is launching two new programs: Greater Ozarks Leadership Development or GOLD and Greater Ozarks Leadership Education and Development or GO LEAD. KSMU's Missy Shelton recently sat down with the institute's director and the coordinators of the new programs. Here's the first part of her conversation.

Shelton: Lloyd Young is a sociologist and director of Missouri State University's Community and Social Issues Institute. The institute's two programs are GOLD, which focuses on developing leaders in small communities and GO LEAD, which provides training to people who work and volunteer with non-profit organizations. Young says the idea for these two programs came from Missouri State President Michael Nieztel.

Young: Even before he started his job, President Nietzel talked to people in the community. He is genuinely interested in making the university of use to the community. He wants it to make it a better community. Several people he talked to said one thing we could use would be some kind of leadership, management, development program for people working in the non-profit sector. We have a good non-profit sector but very people working in it have any kind of formal training that's related to what they're doing. Those suggestions came to Dr. Nieztel before he even moved here. And when he started this institute, one of the two or three things he suggested I focus on is this issue of training for non-profit. Then he talked to people in other communities and he heard from them that they would like to have something out there for the broader region. So, it came from community people to Dr. Nietzel to me and then I brought in people to work on it.

Shelton: Gail Melgren...You are coordinator of the Go Lead program, which focuses on training people who work in the non-profit sector. What are your hopes for this program?

Melgren: My goals for Go Lead are to create a program that provides very specific tools with which non-profit board members, staff and even those interested in exploring the field can better fulfill their mission in their own organizations. As Dr. Young said, they have to know so much and many of them have to wear many hats. They don't have departments. They are all the departments. There are a lot of shops that are small. They are hunger for basic management skills. We've talked with some leaders in the community about the possibility of creating this curriculum. They were enthusiastic about learning the specifics of board governance for example. So, my goal is to empower the people who work in the non-profit sector by providing them with specific management tools.

Shelton: As far as someone who may not be involved in non-profits, they might say, "I can't imagine it's that different from running a for profit business. Why is this program even necessary?"

Melgren: That's a good question. It's a logical question for someone who hasn't worked with non-profits. There are some management concepts that are broad enough that they apply to both non-profits and for profits, there are some unique attributes to non-profits. The first one that jumps to mind is that in non-profits, the power structure is diffused. That's just one example. They're different in many ways. The university has offered training through the management development institute for many years and they have a terrific course schedule for profit companies. Our niche is to focus on non-profits and offer them exactly what they need.

Shelton: Dr. Young, let me pose a sociological question to you...Why is it important to a community to have non-profits that function effectively?

Young: Missy, I don't know how our country got this way but we depend I think more than any other modern country on non-profit, volunteer organizations that in most other countries is done by government. I had an experience in France when we were starting the Sister Cities program. I was amazed to learn that the symphony is run by the city government. The local sports are run by city government. The maintenance of the big cathedral is a city responsibility. Everything there is done by one or another department of city government. When the people from France came over here, they were amazed at the volunteers who ran hospitals and libraries and the boards. So much of our society depends on volunteer associations and organizations doing jobs that demand a lot of skills. And we don't have a good system to get people ready to do it. One of our city leaders and I won't mention his name, in talking about the GOLD program, which we haven't gotten to yet said, "There are dozens of small communities the leaders of which know how to put a bond issue on the ballot but don't know how to get it passed." That's a separate set of skill. Well, there's a need for our volunteer leaders who are carrying so much responsibility for making our society run to get them as skilled as possible at what they're doing.